Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Dementia Risk by 23%

by Staff Writer
March 15, 2023 at 2:05 PM UTC

Eating a Mediterranean diet can help stave off dementia, regardless of genetic background.

Clinical Relevance: Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in plants and seafood may help stave off dementia

  • A new study that tracked more than 60,000 seniors for nine years found that Mediterranean diet  devotees had a lower risk of developing dementia.
  • The Mediterranean diet may reduce dementia risk by as much as 23%, even in people with a genetic predisposition.
  • A good diet can help preserve cognition, but it’s just one component that contributes to who gets dementia.

The Mediterranean diet proves once again that it’s brain food, with a new study suggesting it can reduce the risk of dementia by nearly a quarter, even in people with a genetic predisposition for the condition.

To understand how the diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and seafood, might have an influence on the chances of developing dementia, the BMC Medicine paper tracked more than 60,000 seniors from the UK Biobank for about nine years. Over the course of the study, 882 (approximately 1.4 percent) developed dementia. 

Participants were divided into three groups according to their devotion to the diet. Groupings were based on the subjects’ answers to two questionnaires: the 14-point MedDiet Adherence Screener (MEDAS) score, which is often used in trials and observational studies, and the 15-point MedDiet PYRAMID score, which is often used in epidemiologic studies. The researchers also developed an Alzheimer’s risk score for each individual derived from their genetic information.

Med Diet May Preserve Cognition in MS

Sugary Foods May be Driving Alzheimer’s

Dementia Resource Center

After crunching the numbers, the researchers found that those who stuck most closely to the “MedDiet” reduced their risk of developing dementia by as much as 23 percent compared to those with low adherence. This association held regardless of polygenic scores for dementia, including for APOEε4, a gene strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“The good news from this study is that, even for those with higher genetic risk, having a better diet reduced the likelihood of developing dementia,” study author, John Mathers, Professor of Human Nutrition, Newcastle University, said in a statement. “Although more research is needed in this area, this strengthens the public health message that we can all help to reduce our risk of dementia by eating a more Mediterranean-like diet.”

However, the study also found that a genetic propensity for dementia was associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline no matter what. Regardless of diet, individuals with a higher genetic predisposition were still more likely to develop dementia. So, while following a healthy diet was a smart strategy for preserving cognition, it was only one factor in the full equation for dementia risk.

This is a strong study in the win column for the diet but the authors admit to some limitations in their work. For one, findings were observational and self reported. They were not consistent across all the analyses. All of the subjects were of European descent, so the results may not hold up for other ethnicities. Close followers of the diet tended to be highly educated females who exercised on a regular basis and maintained a healthy weight. Those other positive lifestyle factors may have contributed their fair share of neuroprotection. 

Just how the diet might safeguard the brain wasn’t addressed in this study either. Some evidence suggests it may decrease inflammation or make favorable changes to the gut microbiome. The plant-heavy diet is also rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants that are crucial for brain functioning. The diet has shown promise in other chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer and heart disease as well.

Severity of Antipsychotic-Induced Cervical Dystonia Assessed by the Algorithm-Based Rating System

Rater consensus data were compared with deviation angle data using AI-based deviation angle measurement technology. With the range of tilt angles found in the study, the authors propose a global standard for evaluating abnormal deviation severity in cervical dystonia for future d...

Toshiya Inada and others

Unlocking Therapeutic Potential: The Role of Theta Burst Stimulation in Multiple Sclerosis Management

Theta burst stimulation interventions may hold promise in addressing specific multiple sclerosis symptoms, notably fatigue and spasticity.

David F. Lo and others